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O-Zone: Whatever it takes

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Josh from Atlanta, GA

Good teams take advantage of unfortunate situations from opponents. We did it this past week with injuries to key players for Indy, and have a potential chance to do so again this week against the Bolts. If Justin Herbert is a little banged up, our line has a chance to affect him early. Ribs aren't a joke. We'll see this week but here's to hoping we continue to stay healthy and take advantage of other teams' injuries when we have that shot.

Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert sustained a rib injury last Thursday against the Kansas City Chiefs. It is illegal to hit quarterbacks or other players late. It is illegal to hit players in the head. It is illegal to hit quarterbacks in the pocket around the knees. It is legal to hit quarterbacks in the ribs. I expect the Jaguars to try to legally hit Herbert as often and as hard as possible Sunday.

Zac from Austin, Tejas

If we ever needed a game like it was against the Bills last year, this is it.

I get your point. But while that 9-6 Jaguars victory over the Buffalo Bills in 2021 was a cool moment, it also had a bit of fluky feel in that everything had to go right, and the Jaguars had to play out of their minds defensively to win. This Jaguars team feels like it's good enough to go on the road and have a chance to win if it plays well, has a few things go its way and makes key plays at key moments. But could the Jaguars use an otherworldly defensive effort such as the one that beat the Bills? Sure, they would take it.

JT from Palm Coast, FL

John, if the Jags pull of this victory Sunday, they will probably become the new "it" team. I'll openly admit that I have no damn reason to feel how I feel, but I believe we win this game. We are due.

JT is "all damned in."

Billy from Middleburg

If a team has two ties during the season and finishes 15-0-2 and another team finishes 16-1-0, who wins the division?

Ties count as half a victory and half a loss. In your scenario the 15-0-2 team would have a winning percentage of .941 and the 16-1 team would have the same percentage. The division winner therefore would be determined by other tiebreaker methods, beginning with head-to-head meetings.

Boxcutter Bill from Mass

After reading a recent O-Zone, I was struck with over whelming positive vibes.

If I've said it once in the last 11 years, I've said it a thousand times: "This is a happy place. If you want positive and rosy vibes, hang your hat here."

Raf from Ponte Vedra, FL

I watched the "miced-up" clip on Jaguars tight end Evan Engram and was really impressed with his blocking and toughness with and without the ball. With lots of things being said about Jags overpaying in free agency, I'm beginning to think he may be a real steal. Curious as to how you view him so far?

Pretty much as you do.

Bradley from Sparks, NV

How do you think Etienne will play this week?

Jaguars running back Travis Etienne Jr. for the most part has played fine in the first two games of the season. He could have had two touchdown receptions in the Week 1 loss to the Washington Commanders, but quarterback Trevor Lawrence overthrew him in the end zone once and he couldn't hold a tricky pass from Lawrence near the goal line on another series. I expect Etienne's impact to be more about momentum-turning plays than week-in-and-week-out big games because he's a big-play runner who may not always get 15-to-20 touches a game. He had an impact in Week 1 with a long run and a long pass reception and had less of an impact in Week 2. I expect he'll play fine in Week 3 Sunday. Will he get the opportunity to make an impact? We'll see.

Brian from San Diego, CA

I attended the last Jags' road win against the Raiders in Oakland. I haven't been to a game since that day until this Sunday! I'm hoping they can beat the Chargers so I can brag about being the teams ultimate good-luck charm.

OK.

Gary from High Springs

Hey, John. It's Ray Lewis that coined the phrase, "It's why they play the game." Well, it is, isn't it?

I've never associated Lewis with coining that phrase. It's probably more associated with Chris Berman of ESPN, but I don't know that even Berman should get complete credit. It has been around a while, as is often the case with such sayings. But yes … it's the game that determines the outcome. Talk is just that: Talk.

Cristiano from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

It's 17thwedding anniversary this Saturday for me and the Mrs. Any wise piece of advice on how to go even further?

When she's right, she's right and she's always right. This is true even when she's not as right as she thinks she is. Which is never.

Richard from Jacksonville

The defense that pressures the quarterback most effectively will win the game. Both lines favor the Chargers. The short passing game is key. Travis must have a huge day and our linebacker are going to have to cover and get home to keep it close.

OK.

Boxcutter Bill from Massachusetts

I live where the New England Patriots play and I'm a diehard Jags fan. All I heard last year was how great Patriots quarterback Mac Jones was and how inept we were. NOW the local media is ranking Trevor ahead of Mac, and talking about ceiling. I get it, but I wanna hear it from the King of Funk. Obviously, any team would've taken Trevor had they had the opportunity? RIGHT?

Lawrence was the consensus No. 1 overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft. Would a team other than the Jaguars selected a different player there? There's a chance, but the scenario stretches belief.

Bo from Winter Springs FL

How early do you think Coach P goes for it on 4th down this week? Go Jags! Shut down the Chargers Sunday!

I expect Jaguars Head Coach Doug Pederson will go for it on fourth down the first time he has a fourth and less than five yards or so somewhere outside the Jaguars' 40(ish)-yard line. I expect him to go for it more often than not given that situation no matter the opponent.

Scott from Fernandina Beach, FL

Hi, John. The two biggest differences/improvements I'm noticing is coaching and our wide receivers getting separation and catching the ball when they do. What else do you see?

Jaguars coaches certainly have done a good job in the first two weeks of the season scheming receivers open, and the wide receivers – Christian Kirk, Mavin Jones Jr. and Zay Jones – have done a good job getting open consistently. This was a trend in training camp that has carried into the regular season. The result has been the offense moving into the red zone pretty consistently with few three and outs. The other defining trait of this Jaguars team has been forcing turnovers and protecting the ball. When a team does these key things we're discussing it's going to win more than it loses. It's Week 2. Stay tuned.

Mike from Omaha, NE

What is (are) the key(s) to giving us a chance at beating the Chargers this week? Thank you.

Hit their quarterback, protect your own quarterback from two very good pass rushers (Khalil Mack and Joey Bosa) and run as well as possible to keep those pass rushers from having good opportunities to hit your own quarterback. Win takeaway-giveaway. These things are important every week in the NFL. When you're playing a team with quarterback/pass rushers as good as the Chargers, they're paramount.

Jason from North Pole, AK

Through two games, I don't recall seeing many read-option or designed quarterback run plays that Pederson became known for in Philly. He said earlier this year that defenses have caught up to that and those things don't work quite as well as they used to. While that is likely the case, I have been expecting some of Trevor's rushing ability to be used on critical downs as a surprise element. Do you think they have gotten away from this because they believe he can win from the pocket without it or because the risk of injury is too great?

I don't expect a heavy diet of read-option with Lawrence this season because of the reasons you cite – it's not quite as much of a league-wide staple and you don't want to unnecessarily expose Lawrence to injury on a regular basis. Remember, too: We're two games into the season and Pederson clearly gameplans each week based on his mantra, "Do what it takes to win." Just because a concept hasn't been part of the gameplan yet doesn't mean it will be that way Sunday or moving forward.

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